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Monday, September 25, 2017

The politics of cancer

We need prevention and a cure more than “awareness”
By Will Collette

That's Flip on the far right, as is fitting.
On October 1, Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi (R-Charlestown), along with some luminaries from the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, will speak before the annual “Twin Peaks Preservation Stroll” here in Charlestown.

No doubt Flip will wear his pink t-shirt again to show that he cares.

But wearing a pink t-shirt and talking about cancer awareness is not enough. After years of events for “cancer awareness,” I think it’s fair to say that everyone who is capable of awareness of cancer is aware.

Isn’t it time to start saying what we really need: a cure for cancers that threaten to kill but most of all, prevention of future cancers?

That’s where the politics get sticky. While everyone is in favor of “awareness,” there is less consensus around prevention because it means getting serious about anti-cancer vaccination and about environmental triggers that cause or boost the risk of cancer.

It boggles my mind how our local politicians Flip can prance around in pink cancer “awareness” t-shirts, yet oppose mandatory vaccination against HPV, the virus that causes a variety of cancers such as cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is the fourth-most common form of cancer in women and kills over 4,000 American women every year. It used to kill a lot more women, but thanks to PAP smear tests, often done at Planned Parenthood, the fatality rate declined.

But still, every 20 minutes, another person is diagnosed with an HPV-related form of cancer – a cancer that can be prevented.

Now we have a safe and effective vaccine that could drastically slash the rates of HPV-related cancers if given at the best age, about 12 years old, as one of the vaccinations required for school attendance.

Filippi, along with our two other local uber-right General Assembly members Sen. Elaine Morgan (R-Hopkinton) and Rep. Justin Price (R-Richmond), have labored hard to block mandatory HPV vaccination.

They have each sponsored and co-sponsored bills to that effect in the General Assembly. Fortunately, none of them have passed.

But I think Filippi owes Charlestown an explanation for his concrete actions to impede cancer prevention through his anti-HPV bills.

I’d like him to speak in support of Planned Parenthood for the amazing role they play in screening women to find cancers earlier when they can still be treated. Other Republicans have worked hard to try to kill Planned Parenthood which provides 270,000 pap smears and 360,000 breast cancer exams every year.

I’d also like to hear Flip address the efforts by his own Republican Party to slash funding for science and medicine, including research to find cures and ways to prevent cancer.

I’d like to hear Filippi’s position on reducing human exposure to carcinogens in the environment from, among many other things, vehicle exhausts, pesticides and household products.

Flip, demonstrate that you actually care about stopping cancer and finding cures rather than support your party’s pro-cancer policies. Then you can wear your pink t-shirt without shame.

One last point about HPV: one of the leading voices supporting HPV vaccination is the American Cancer Society, the intended recipient of all the money raised in this year’s Twin Peak Preservation Stroll.